If you’re missing the juicy sweetness of a fresh-picked tomato from your backyard garden, here’s some good news: you don’t necessarily have to wait for next summer to start growing a new crop! Here’s how to get started growing tomatoes indoors — even in the winter.
1. When shopping for seeds, choose a variety that can grow in a container, keeping in mind:
- “Determinate” varieties grow for a relatively short period of time, all the tomatoes will ripen at once, and then the plant stops producing.These varieties can be easier to grow in a container as they require minimal or no staking.
- “Indeterminate” varieties continue to grow and produce indefinitely and are much more likely to keep you in tomatoes throughout a long winter. But they can require more care so that they don’t grow out of control!
- Plants that produce small, cherry- or grape-sized tomatoes in abundance generally do better indoors than larger “slicing” varieties.
- Some varieties to consider: Matt’s Wild Cherry, Toy Boy, Jelly Bean, Yellow Pear and Tiny Tim.
2. Plant the seeds in a small pot in a starter soil mix, about 1/4 inch deep. Water, and maintain moist but not soggy soil, and keep them in a warm area (75-85 degrees: the top of a radiator or refrigerator may be a good choice, or you can buy or make a warming mat.)
In 5-10 days the seeds should germinate, and you can move them to a sunny window (south-facing is best) and/or place them under a bright light if the window does not receive at least 6 hours of bright sunlight daily.
3. When the seedlings are about three inches tall, transplant them into potting soil in a larger “home.” The size of your pot will depend on the seed variety you’ve chosen. Fertilize about two weeks after transplanting and continue to water regularly, and turn frequently to make sure the sunlight reaches all sides of your plant.
4. Stake if necessary — a small trellis or dowel will do the trick.
5. When plants begin to bloom, flick or gently shake the larger stems and branches with your finger to encourage pollination (if the plant is a self-pollinating variety.)
As with growing any plant indoors, you may have to experiment with location and lighting supplementation to get the best results. But with a little time and care, soon you should be able to re-experience that fresh-off-the-vine tomato taste you’ve been missing!